“I know that Dave and [assistants Scott Wisemantel and Matt Taylor] are working really hard doing the groundwork to make sure the Wallabies are going to be as prepared as they can be and we have a world class practitioner in John Pryor leading our athletic development program. I’m really excited to see that coaching team coach the Wallabies.”
Despite Castle’s confidence, sources close to Rennie maintained that the three-time Super Rugby title-winning coach would be the first domino to fall if there was change at the top in the immediate future.
They also questioned whether Rennie’s highly-regarded Australian coaching team would last through any change, as Wisemantel and Taylor all gave up well-paid jobs in the Scotland and England set ups to join the Wallabies on the New Zealander’s ticket.
The relationship between head coach and chief executive is an important one, making executive change a fraught time for coaching staff. If a CEO loses the confidence of a board, uncertainty flows from the top down.
Director of rugby Scott Johnson and new Wallabies manager Chris Webb would be a key stabilising force in any tumult, with Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar the likely beneficiary if Castle, Rennie and anyone else were to depart.
Meanwhile, RA and the Rugby Union Players Association continued negotiations on an emergency pay deal, while the subject of early releases emerged as a potential flashpoint in coming weeks.
The governing body is asking the country’s 192 professional players to take a 65 per cent pay cut for the next six months, while 75 per cent of the non-player workforce is stood down without pay, the organisation’s top 15 executives work on 70 per cent of their salaries and Castle on 35 per cent.
Fearing a mass exodus, RA was not willing to entertain the notion of early releases when RUPA floated the issue in their initial pitch last week.
But player agents told the Herald RA would be sensible to treat requests on a case by case basis, with France, the United Kingdom and Japan all expected to start ramping up their recruitment efforts in coming weeks. The new European season starts in August, while Japan’s next season gets underway in January.
“Teams are definitely making plans,” one agent, who asked not to be named, said. “It’s maybe not as active as it would be in a traditional year but there’s definitely activity.
“I don’t think there’ll be a lot wanting to leave but there will be a handful that have the capacity to find a contract offer and are keen to pursue it.
“I don’t see how you can begrudge someone finding more stable employment if they can get it, in the current environment. It’s not players being greedy, it’s players saying ‘we understand the game can’t pay us what it said it was going to pay us, so let me go and find work that suits me better and, at the same time, relieve the game of all your financial responsibility towards me’.”
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.